21 November 2014

The Joys of Miss Fisher


by Dixon Hill

Leigh's recent quips about cricket, coupled with Rob's mention of a "sexy cozy" triggered this post about Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, an ABC (um . . . that's: Australian Broadcasting Company, in this case) television series, which I've been watching on NetFlix.

Kerry Greenwood
This two-season (so far) TV series -- which I think could be accurately called a sexy and humorous cozy -- is set in Melbourne and based on a series of books by prolific Australian author and defense lawyer Kerry Greenwood.


Ms. Greenwood has penned no fewer than 20 books about Miss Fisher, plus several more novels spanning the YA, Sci-Fi and mystery markets.  If Wikipedia is to be believed, she's also a playwright.

The series' titular "Miss Fisher" is, point in fact, Miss Phryne ("Fry-nee") Fisher, a young upper-crust Australian woman of the 1920's who evidently served in the ambulance corps during the First World War.  It seems that the horror she encountered there stripped away her innocence, baring a wry and often humorous cynicism that I, as a viewer, find delectable.




In a word, I'd say she's "cheeky."
Delightfully so!




Dot quietly feels
Miss Fisher drives
far too recklessly. 
Having returned to Australia from England, in the first episode, young Phryne pronounces herself a lady detective.

And – stylish detective that she is – she even sports a gold-plated revolver, when needed. As well as a gorgeous Hispano-Suiza, which she drives at breakneck speeds.

The mysteries here are not mind-bendingly difficult to solve.



Nor do people running around with fancy metal-plated weapons usually entice me to watch a show.  Quite the opposite on both counts. But, if I'm honest, I'll have to admit I don't watch Phryne to test my wits against hers, as I might with a good Sherlock or Miss Marple. And, the fact is, the gold-plated revolver works in this case.  It's just the right weapon, with just the right feel of "decorative accessory," that would make it seem likely to strike the character's flair for the unique and stylish -- two things Phryne Fisher definitely personifies.  But, I really don't watch shows because of weapons.


So, why do I watch Miss Fisher?

Frankly, because the show is so much fun.

The characters are delightful.  First, there's Phryne's friend and assistant, Dorothy, often called Dottie or Dot.  Little Dot is devoutly religious, and frightened by technology.  One of my favorite scenes, which occurred in the first episode, involved Dot trying to answer a telephone.

.
As the young woman had earnestly explained to Phryne earlier, the priest at her church had told everyone that the electricity in the phone lines was building up in the center of the earth, and that – one day – one telephone connection too many would be made, causing the world to explode. Thus, as Phryne's phone rings, Dot, charged with answering it in Phryne's absence, is torn between doing her duty to her friend and employer, and her fear that answering the instrument might trigger a cataclysm that  destroys the entire planet.
The results had me rolling.

Then there's Phryne's female doctor friend: Dr. Elizabeth "Mac" Macmillan.  The good doctor dresses in men's clothing, as many women of the time actually did.  It had nothing, necessarily, to do with their sexual leanings; it was simply a style fad in the post-war years, according to my professor at ASU, when I took a class on this time period in Europe's history.

This taste in clothing may actually be associated with the view that women with bodies that looked "good for breeding" were thought of, at the time, as being similar to cows, or even "breeding machinery" (a connotation much distrusted in the wake of a war that saw the horrific effects of combat mechanization for the first time).  Consequently, "le garçon" arrived on the scene in Europe -- women whom the French called, literally: "the boy" because of their thin hips, flat chests and "masculine" behavior (such as smoking in public).  The wearing of men's clothing, according to one line of thinking, was an extension of such new social norms.

On the other hand, there is strong evidence (albeit off stage) that "Mac" may enjoy the company of women in her boudoir – something that bothers Phryne not one whit.  Mac also harbors a deep grudge against the male establishment, which would be perfectly understandable for a female M.D. of that time period. She's quick to anger, slow to trust, but is fast friends with Phryne, whom she evidently trusts implicitly.

Detective Inspector John "Jack" Robinson carries on a – so far – unrequited love affair with Phryne, though the femini Phryne doesn't appear to let this interfere with her bedroom gymnastics with other, more immediately willing, partners.  Robinson is quite conservative, but he clearly can't get this remarkable woman out of his mind.  And, the fact that she keeps showing up at the scenes of crimes that he's charged with investigating does little to alleviate this problem.

Robinson is assisted by Constable Hugh Collins, an innocent new police officer who soon begins dating Dot.


Add in Bert and Cec, two rather rough-around-the-edges manual
laborers with hearts of gold, who do some of Miss Fisher's heavy lifting, and Phryne's dowager aunt Prudence, along with a few other characters, and you've got a gold mine of humor, conflict and fun.

I highly recommend the show, if you haven't seen it already.

Phryne Fisher: Not only can she drive, and fly a plane…
She's also not afraid to fan dance!
See you in two weeks,
—Dixon

11 comments:

Fran Rizer said...

Okay, Dixon, you sold me. I'll check out Miss Fisher, and from the fan dance pic, I'm sure Leigh will, too.

Melodie Campbell said...

This is my absolute favorite new show. Am eagerly awaiting season 3. Also fab, from down under - Mr. and Mrs. Murder. The books are great, but the show is even better. So well cast.

Eve Fisher said...

As soon as I finish binge-watching "House of Cards", Miss Fisher is up!

Dixon Hill said...

Melodie, my wife and I are only part-way through the second season, but I'm glad to hear they've finally confirmed that they'll be producing the third. Meanwhile, I've got two of the books on order at my local library, and I'll have to check out Mr. and Mrs. Murder too.

Fran and Eve, I don't think you'll be sorry. It's a very fun show. And, yes, I'm sure Leigh will enjoy that fan dance -- though it did seem to rather shock little Dot. lol

--Dixon

Elizabeth said...

It sounds really fun. Thanx for the heads-up!

Leigh Lundin said...

You've sold me, Dixon. It sounds like my cup of tea. Perhaps if I hint subtly enough, someone might get the series for me for Christmas! In the meantime, the library is within walking distance…

It's not that I dislike cricket if I could stay awake through it and not find myself drifting into reveries about hangnails. Here are a couple of my reflections tied into a damn good article about ‘the sport’ and Hitler.

Dixon Hill said...

You're welcome Elizabeth. And I sure found it enjoyable.

Leigh, good luck with that Christmas wish list. I keep getting coal for some reason. lol

Meanwhile: Hitler and Cricket! Details at eleven.

Louis A. Willis said...

I too watched the first two seasons and glad to know a third season is in the works.

David Dean said...

I'm a fan, too, Dixon. It's got great style and verve (don't get to use that word very often) and is very entertaining.

Next week I contribute my two bits on the British TV mystery scene.

John Floyd said...

Dix, I've been meaning to watch this series. Because of your column--and because I just noticed that it's available via streaming--I plan to start it tonight. Thanks!

Dixon Hill said...

Louis and David, I'm glad to hear you like it. And, John: enjoy! (I think you will.)